Lionel Messi to miss next Miami game

Lionel Messi returned to action on Wednesday for Inter Miami after missing the last two games, the 3-2 win over Sporting Kansas City while on national team duty with Argentina and the 5-2 loss at Atlanta United while resting a leg injury.

He had to leave the game before halftime.

Messi exited in the 37th minute of the Herons' match with Toronto FC. It was 0-0 when he left, but Miami went on to win, 4-0, in a boost for its MLS playoff hopes.

But Messi and former Barcelona teammate Jordi Alba, who also came off in the first half against Toronto after missing the Atlanta match, won't play on Sunday when Inter Miami plays at Orlando City.

“There is no chance for them to play the Orlando match," Miami coach Tata Martino said after Wednesday's game, "but I do not think there is anything serious or muscle injuries. I think it is just fatigue.”

Messi came off late in Argentina's opening World Cup 2026 qualifier after scoring the lone goal in the 1-0 victory over Ecuador in Buenos Aires.

“The scans he had with the national team, they didn’t show any injury," Martino said. "We still saved him [didn't play him against Atlanta] to be safe."

By not playing Messi and Alba against Orlando City, Inter Miami will hope they will be ready for the U.S. Open Cup final at home next Wednesday against the Houston Dynamo.

The win over Toronto FC moved Inter Miami ahead of the New York Red Bulls into 13th place.

Only one of the five teams ahead of the Herons in the Eastern Conference playoff race when the day began won on Wednesday. FC Charlotte blew a 2-0 lead against Philadelphia, conceding the equalizer in the third minute of stoppage time.

When play broke for the Leagues Cup in July, the Herons had gone 11 games without a win in league play and had the worst record of all 29 teams in MLS, sitting 12 points below the playoff line in the Eastern Conference.

With Wednesday's results, Inter Miami is just five points below the playoff line with two games in hand on ninth-place D.C. United.

Remaining games (6+1):
Sept. 24. at Orlando City. Sept. 27. Houston (U.S. Open Cup final). Sept. 30. NYCFC. Oct. 4. at Chicago. Oct. 7. FC Cincinnati. Oct. 18. Charlotte FC. Oct. 21. at Charlotte FC.

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